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Are the Beautiful People’s Pens Mightier Than the Iranian Regime’s Stones?

Posted on December 15 2010 9:00 pm
Phyllis Chesler is an Emerita Professor of Psychology and Women's Studies at City University of New York. For extended biography visit The Phyllis Chesler Organization.

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The Beautiful People have just weighed in on the matter of She-Who-Would-Be-Stoned. More than eighty actors, models, singers, musicians, comedians, authors, philosophers, artists, and parliamentarians (mainly based in Europe), have just signed a letter on behalf of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani. The letter is addressed to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader, and President Ahmadinejad.

The signatories include V.S. Naipaul, Wole Soyinka, Carla Bruni, (the first lady of France), Sting, Lady Antonia Fraser, Damien Hirst, Howard Jacobson, Isabelle Huppert, Bernard Kouchner, Bernard-Henri Levy—and American actors Mia Farrow, Robert De Niro, and Robert Redford.

A month ago, I had a surprising conversation with a prominent Israeli expert on Iran. He said:

Trust me. They are very sensitive to criticism. The international campaign on behalf of the woman they wish to stone is proving effective. They will have to respond.

We were discussing Sakineh’s tragic plight, the woman who has already been jailed for five years, tortured, flogged 99 times, and sentenced to be stoned to death.

A mainly European-based international campaign on Sakineh’s behalf featured an Iranian feminist dissident march from London and Paris to the European Parliament in Brussels; this seemingly led to an announcement that Sakineh’s death sentence would be delayed which was soon followed by a (false) announcement that Sakineh had been freed and/or that her death sentence had been canceled.

This was disinformation during which time the Iranian authorities, in classic totalitarian style, forced Sakineh to participate in a videotaped docu-drama (!!) in which Sakineh  reenacted how she and her alleged lover allegedly murdered her husband.

According to the Times of  London story (reprinted here), the government-run media accused the Western media of “peddling myths about Ms. Ashtiani” and then showed  the docu-drama in response. On camera:

In a deadpan voice Ms Ashtiani, or a woman identified as her, told a bizarre story of how she was contacted out of the blue by a relative named Isa Taheri, agreed to meet him in a park, began an affair with him, and then agreed to help him when he telephoned one day to say that he intended to kill her husband. She showed how she allegedly injected her husband while he was asleep with flu to make him unconscious so Taheri could electrocute him.

Videotaped docu-dramas now characterize the 21st century version of a Soviet Show Trial and a truly Big Lie. Israeli soldiers are seen, falsely, but on film, committing a “massacre” of civilians in Lebanon and Jenin. People tend to believe their eyes—even if what they are seeing is a Big Fat Lie. So too, the Iranian authorities now have Sakineh confessing on tape and actually showing people how she helped her alleged lover to electrocute her husband.

By the way: That alleged lover is free since Sakineh’s children “pardoned” him. Sakineh remains a condemned prisoner, guilty of both “adultery” and “murder.” Has her husband’s family refused to “pardon” her or is her crime too great to be privately pardoned?

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